India welcomes Pakistan’s decision to release pilot

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD: Indian military officials said on Thursday they welcomed Pakistan’s planned return of a captured pilot, but refused to confirm they would de-escalate a conflict between the two nuclear powers.
The pilot, identified as Wing Commander Abhinandan, became the human face of the flare-up over the contested region of Kashmir following the release of videos showing him being captured and later held in custody.
“We are happy our pilot is being released,” said Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor, at a joint news conference of India’s three armed forces on Thursday evening.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said the pilot would be released on Friday, to the relief of many Indians.
“As a peace gesture, we will be releasing him tomorrow,” Khan told Pakistan’s parliament on Thursday afternoon. Lawmakers thumped their desks in response.
“We will celebrate his release tomorrow,” said Vinay Bhardwaj, 34, a plumber in Nawshera, a border town in Kashmir. “People are very happy about that here.”
The US, China, European Union and other powers have urged restraint from the two nations, as tensions escalated following a suicide car bombing that killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police in Kashmir on February 14. see page 6